A Tribute To The Subaru Brumby Ute


A funny thing happened the other day: Mrs Swade actually asked me to NOT sell one of my cars.

I’ve been thinking about selling my Subaru Brumby for a while now, primarily because I’ve got a little Italian project* in mind and in a perfect world, the Brumby would free up both the space and funds I need to make a start on it. It looks like that project might have to wait, however, and I have to say that I don’t mind that one little bit.

I have to correct this website’s record on the Brumby. I saw, just a few days ago, an entry on this site talking about all the problems I had with the car when I first got it. Yes, the water pump carked it. Yes, there were some starting issues in the cold weather when I first brought it home. But those are but distant memories now.

Brumby UteI own two red, two-door vehicles right now – the Brumby and the 968 – and I have absolutely no idea which one I’ll own for longer. The Brumby is that good.

And yet many consider the Brumby to be a little less than manly. I had a mate have a quiet giggle at it compared to his Ranger (g’day Chris!). I don’t mind, though. To me, Brumbys are more like the farmers that buy them and keep them for years, sometimes decades – humble, unassuming, but surprisingly capable, Tonka tough and more reliable than death or taxes.

The Brumby has been 100% trouble-free since those early issues. It starts every morning and runs without fuss all day. Yes, the interior’s a bit spartan. A bit 80’s. But it’s got uber-rare power steering, air conditioning (that works!) and a recent ugly-as-a-bashed-crab stereo Subaru Brumby Uteinstallation that not only plays the one CD I keep in the car (Dinosaur Jr), but will also drive my iPod if I tell it to. Everything works except for the driver’s door lock, which you have to fiddle with. That was source of frustration last year but is now considered a beauty spot rather than a blemish.

You know where you stand with a Brumby. It’s not a show pony. It has no pedigree. The Brumby is a mutt that’s been robbed, stoned, beat up and broken boned. The Brumby gives me the comfort of knowing that I can scrape a shovel blade in the rear tray as I’m scooping up my pine bark and the car won’t complain. It won’t lose any value. It might even gain value! The only type of wash it knows is from the rain and it rarely gets so much as a fresh drop of oil**.

And yet, it just keeps on going.

Subaru Brumby Ute

Six days a week I rarely ever think about the Brumby. On that one day I need it, however, it’s the greatest little car in the world. The little car that could. I’m no fan of boring automotive appliances but there IS something to be said for reliability. Combine it with utility and character and you’ve got a recipe for one hell of a good car.


* The little Italian project: an Alfasud Sprint combined with the running gear of a 16V Alfa 33. Mmmmmmmm.

** That situation will be rectified over the Christmas break, with some oil, plugs and filters coming the Brumby’s way. It’ll feel like a new car!

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  1. Nice website design. Nice.
    Ever used Puffin on an iPad? Weird things happen to the text on your pages.
    Like it is spy-coded…

  2. You’ve brought back happy memories of my old. black Alfa Sprint Green Cloverleaf (1.5 boxer, 105hp) from the late 80s. It was a sublime drive (as all ‘Suds were!) powerful enough and made that glorious boxer growl! Loved it to death, at least ’till the tin worm took it from me! 🙂

    Happy days ahead for you Swade!

    Agree about the Brumby. I have a Toyota I treat in the same way and the reliable loyal way it goes about it’s everyday duties is refreshing. It’s like a trusty spaniel! LOL!

    1. I had a Sprint many years ago. My first Alfa. I didn’t really know how to drive it back then – always took it easy and wondered why it didn’t feel lively. I didn’t realise until just before I sold it that you had to have it above 4000rpm for it to come alive. I still have very fond memories of that car, though. Can’t wait to get another.

  3. Love the article on the Brumby Swade. A few years ago I owned a Toyota Hilux Workmate. (I know you hate Toyota’s with a passion!) Sure it was a bit uncomfortable but I couldn’t fault it and it was so handy. I know this sounds bizarre, but I actually miss it and I regret selling it! The car I own now is smooth, comfortable and I love driving it but sometimes I just want something I can drive down to the hardware store and load up or take a load down to the tip. DON’T SELL IT!

    1. Your comment got caught in the site’s spam trap, Anthony. Just spotted it this morning, hence the delay in publication.

      I don’t have Toyotas, actually. I just find myself snoringly indifferent towards them (which, it could be argued, is worse than hate). And that’s mainly confined to the mainstream Camrys, etc. We have a very fast Corolla in the driveway at home with an outstanding engine in it. The young fella and I constantly talk about getting an MR2 track car. And yes, an old Toyota ute would be a good addition to any working man’s drive.

      There are lots of things I don’t like about Toyota (and other car companies, too, but Toyota are the classic pin-up for generic car companies) but lots of things to like, as well.

  4. I now know why I have always liked your perspective, Dinosaur Jr! What album is in that brumby? Nice contrast to the porsche. I sometimes miss the old days of driving subaru loyales through the woods camping etc. Great utilitarian cars. Nice changeup on the site take care

  5. It’s your Brumbysaurus, Swade. See, you know it – a Ute is an Australian classic. You describe it perfectly. It just needs to be dreamed up again and it will have a new future.

    Think about this: if the Dacia Duster came in a LWB version that had some kind of convertible rear with maybe a detachable upper body so you could fill it up with compost or something, I could see something special. The Duster is already one of the very few cars I would consider buying new, because it wouldn’t bother me if the dog leaked in it or I scraped the boot sill with a shovel. I could just get on with my life.

    I like the Dinosaur Jr reference; it kinda underlines the cute but rugged message you are going for about the Brumbysaurus. When I was a wee lad and my big bro was a stoodent, he used to come home during holidays and listen to Dinosaur Jr and Husker Du religiously with the volume turned up to ’11’. Those guitar sounds actually scored my ear drums. I shudder to think what range of frequencies I lost during those days.

  6. I was visiting the Ashcrafts (masters of all things Old Saab) in Oregon a couple years ago. Jack showed up in a Brat–said it was his favorite vehicle.

    1. I’ve never met Jack but his work with V4’s is legendary and I follow his website’s occasional posts. If I ever get a Sonett I hope I can get he and his son to build an engine for me (unless it’s already got something super hot).

      Jack turning up in a Brat and saying what he said must almost be the ultimate compliment for the car.

  7. Well, Pierre’s gone to work on Subarus and you buy one and love it. Wow. How things change.

    I know how you feel. I really fell for that Dodge Journey which is a very spartan (by today’s standards) and somewhat dowdy utility vehicle. All it ever did was take the hauling, the parades of kids and the highway miles with aplomb. I miss it. I really do.

  8. There´s really something werid about Subaru. Things that has been said here several times. Spartan, hard plastics, ugly etc. Many people seem to almost hate Subaru for some reason, whatever the reason.
    But when you own one and drive one for some time, you forget about it. You just drive and drive. One day you notice you´ve been driving it for quite some time already with no hassle. It just works as it´s supposed to. Practical and realiable cars. We´ve had 2010 Outback now (again) for almost two years. Perfect car for our needs. And zero problems so far (120000km now). Previous four 9-3 SC´s that I had (three of them bought new) had all some minor or major problems with way lower mileage.